They say money cannot buy character. Whoever said that clearly hasn’t seen the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor. With its distinctively aggressive stance, the new gaping, matte black signature grille with a massive skidplate underneath, burly haunches, strapping BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain tyres wrapped around 17in off-road rims, raised height and wider track compared to a stock F-150, the new Raptor oozes character like nothing else on four wheels does. And what’s more it can be bought with just Dh220,000 of your money.
And Ford has managed to infuse generous amounts of magnetism into its supertruck without having to resort to gaudy graphics or silly badges. The new Raptor looks mean and angry without even trying. And as those who have driven the previous generation Raptor will know, the meanness and fury isn’t limited to its appearance. It’s embedded deeply in its very DNA.
With the 2017 iteration, this inherent affinity for savage performance has evolved further. And the entire skeletal structure has been revised to adapt to this change. The high-strength steel frame has been purpose-built for Raptor, and is clothed in a military-grade aluminium-alloy body that helps shave more than 227kg from the truck’s heft compared to its predecessor. And to be more at home in its natural territory, the Raptor comes standard with new 3.0in Fox Racing Shox that features a custom internal bypass technology that helps prevent the truck from bottoming out when traversing coarse terrain. Front and rear shock canisters have grown considerably in diameter and have more suspension travel than the previous Raptor. It also comes armed with a Borg Warner transfer case with Torque-on-Demand technology, which essentially brings together the characteristics of on-demand all-wheel drive and driver-selectable, mechanical-locking four-wheel drive. With six terrain modes, Normal, Sport, Weather, Sand/Mud, Rock Crawl and Baja, to choose from, this makes the Raptor ready to take on the most challenging of terrains with characteristic ease.
In Normal and Sport, the transfer case is in two-wheel drive, while Weather engages 4 Auto, which distributes torque to the axle with grip. Choosing Mud/Sand calls up 4 High, which locks the transfer case and engages the electronic rear differential locker. Rock Crawl selects 4 Low and locks the rear diff for some serious low-speed crawling, while Baja selects 4 High again while keeping gear shift points higher. And this last mode is where you’d want to keep it while tackling the desert terrain here. Although I didn’t deflate the tyres and go deep into the dunes, some frolicking over gravel and sand near Al Qudra proved highly entertaining, with the Raptor just gliding over shrubbery and swallowing up furrows.
However, it’s not just the suspension that’s the star here. Of equal significance is the all-new twin-turbo 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6. Now, before you cry “sacrilege” just get behind the wheel of the 2017 Raptor and you’ll be amazed at how captivatingly powerful this new engine is. It delivers more power and torque, 10 horsepower and 90Nm in Gulf spec, than the massive 6.2-litre V8 from the previous SVT Raptor. And channelling the 421 horses and the 678Nm of twist to all four wheels is a 10-speed automatic transmission with manual-shifting via paddle shifters. Agreed, even with all the enhancement, the exhaust note can’t hold a candle to that of the eight-cylinder’s. But if you’re able to look past that, any apprehension you might have about a V6 Raptor will vanish into a cloud of fine dust once you hit an off-road trail and put the pedal to the metal. With the rev needle at around 3,500rpm and the 10-speed auto holding the gears for longer the V6 does a more admirable job in helping the Raptor hurtle along in the rough in a way no other production pick-up truck can. Just as with the suspension, the engine’s throttle response mapping also alters according to the drive mode you select.
Although it’s been developed to perform at its peak in off-road conditions, the Raptor is by no means a misfit in the urban jungle. Flick it into Normal, it transforms into a pliant, comfy family car that cruises along with the V6 revving at a row 1,500rpm and even a fuel-saving stop-start system kicking in. The plush appointments of the cabin and the cavernously roomy passenger cell belie the Raptor’s intimidating road presence. In fact the appearance is so imposing in the rear-view mirror that you don’t have to flash your headlights or use your horn to part traffic ahead of you. Perched high up on the well-bolstered driver’s seat enjoying one of the most commanding driving positions, you’ll be forgiven for imagining yourself to be Moses and Shaikh Zayed Road, the Red Sea. However, there are a few compromises in the Raptor’s on-road behaviour. The most glaring one is the braking response. Although significantly lighter than that of the SVT’s, the new Raptor’s braking performance isn’t any more confidence-inspiring than its precursor. In fact, the stopping distance is longer than that of the heavier SVT. This is likely due to the beefy KO2 rubbers that are purpose-built. Also, expect the occasional judder and wallow that are unavoidable in a ladder-frame truck made specifically for off-road performance.
But raising these complaints against the Raptor is as pointless as accusing a road-legal version of a track car of being not so comfortable. The Ford F-150 Raptor doesn’t belong in the city or on the highway. It belongs in the wilderness. It’s born wild, and has been raised to pummel mighty boulders and daunting sand dunes into submission. It reigns supreme over a territory that no other pick-up truck dares to enter. And if you feel something isn’t quite right while cruising along a highway, it’s possible the Raptor’s inner beast is prodding you to take it to its natural habitat. The best thing to do then is heed that primal call and veer off the beaten track. You’ll end up taking the longer way home, every time.